Come on, it’s a beautiful morning, come for a walk with the dog and me. Don’t worry if you’re not keen on dogs, he’s got to stay on his lead today because he can’t be trusted not to chase after the baby bunnies we sometimes see on this walk. We’ll take this path …
We’re a couple of miles from Winwick, very close to IKEA and Marks and Spencer on the Gemini retail park in Warrington. In fact, if you’ve ever been to those stores then there’s a good chance that you’ll have passed the entrance to this path but probably never have noticed it. We’ve come through the gate and immediately it’s as if we’re miles away from anywhere, whereas in fact we’re in the middle of an urban area. Stand still for a moment and listen. There are birds all around us, singing in the trees and rustling in the bushes, and the beep-beep of a truck reversing just on the other side of a large hedgerow. Nature and industry side by side. The dog’s keen to get on so we’ll carry on walking. Come on, it’s this way. Mind your step under these trees, it’s quite muddy just here, but it smells fabulous; woody and earthy – delicious!
This plant is Himalayan balsam. It’s quite an invasive weed and there’s plenty of it around here as we’re close to water. It’s very tall and has lovely pink flowers which develop into seed pods that explode later in the year, firing their seeds up to four feet away. I love the way that all the plants have turned their leaves to face the sun. This is the one sunny spot between large groups of trees and it’s as if they’re all sun-bathing.
You can turn your face to the sun here, too. There are a few clouds but I think they’ll be gone soon. Although it’s only about nine o’clock in the morning, it’s warm enough to penetrate through the branches already. I bet you’re glad you didn’t bring your big jacket this morning, aren’t you? I’ve got my jumper wrapped around my waist already, enjoying the sun on my arms as we pass between the trees and open sky.
Look, some of the Himalayan balsam flowers are out just up here. They’re quite exotic-looking flowers, aren’t they? They remind me of little faces!
Right then, which way shall we choose now? The path goes to the left or the right and is regularly mowed to produce these grassy islands; over to the right are more of them and some picnic benches. It’s a good place to bring children to play. The dog has decided that we’re going left – there must be a good smell down there. I’m sure you don’t really mind which way we go? All the paths link up together in the end anyway so we won’t get lost.
If we look behind us, you can just about see the M62 motorway in the distance, reminding us that we’re not so far from civilisation. The planners at Warrington Council were always very good at making sure there was plenty of green space around their housing and industrial areas; they seem to have let that slip at bit with some of the new housing estates that are being built which is a shame, but times are different now and house-builders want to squeeze every bit of cash from the land. Flowers and trees aren’t a high priority in these financially-constrained times – a bit short-sighted in my view as once they’ve gone, they’ve gone and it’s not impossible to blend green spaces with housing as can be seen from other parts of Warrington – but that’s how it is these days. We have to breathe the fresh air where we can.
The elder flowers are just about finished now and the flowers are making way for the glossy black berries that will appear later in the year. I made my elderflower cordial earlier this month and we’ve been enjoying it with fizzy spring water in this recent hot weather. Last year, I made elderflower wine as well as the cordial but this year I just used the flowers for cordial – if I’m feeling adventurous when the berries are out I might try making some elderberry wine for a change.
Ooh, look at that sky now! Isn’t it such a beautiful colour? There are all sorts of trees along this path; conifers, elder, willow, oak, maple, hawthorn, alder, horse chestnut – all supporting a variety of wildlife and all full of birds this morning.
It’s not so difficult to work out which bird this feather came from. There are lots and lots of magpies here, all chattering to each other in their harsh voices. They’re not particularly pleasant birds but there’s something about them that I’ve always quite liked. I think it’s their formal black and white attire which makes them look like little gentlemen in tailcoats, or perhaps it’s because when I was little I used to repeat the rhyme to myself (“One for sorrow, two for joy …”) and always say “Good morning, Mr Magpie” for good luck. I liked the idea that seeing a particular bird could influence the way your day would go; now of course I know that you make your own luck and there are so many magpies around that I’d be constantly chatting to them!
We’re out of the trees now, the sun’s pretty hot and the dog’s panting away on the end of his lead. He can see Sankey Brook just over there through the grasses and he’d very much like to go in for a quick splash – unfortunately for him, that would mean me going in for a quick splash as well and that’s not happening, so I’ll distract him while we keep on walking.
There isn’t much further to go on this walk, but there are one or two treats to look at before we reach the end of it. I love these grasses with their feathery plumes. There’s just something about them that makes you want to waft your hands through them. I like the way that you can slide your fingers up to the top of some of the varieties and the seeds slide off to look like a little bunch of flowers in your fingers. The dog likes them too – most dogs seem to like bounding through tall grasses – but we have to watch he doesn’t get the seeds stuck in his ears.
Look at these thistles, right at the end of the path here. There are lots of ladybirds on the prickly leaves and although only one is in flower at the moment, the others are ready to burst open any day now. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for thistles, probably because my Dad is Scottish and they’re a symbol of a place I have a lot of affection for.
The path turns to the left and here we are on the bridge over Sankey Brook. The water looks quite brown and brackish today but it’s pretty clean and I don’t mind the dog going into it in some shallower places. When the weather’s been very wet, the level rises right up the banks and almost to where we’re standing – those are the days I keep the dog well away from it as it flows very fast and I’m not sure he has the sense not to launch himself in.
We’ll keep on this footpath for just a little longer until we get back to where we started from. Behind us is the road that cars travel along to get to the Gemini retail park so we’ve not come too far from it, although it’s been lovely to listen to the birds and the water instead of rushing traffic. I think it’s time for a cup of a tea when I get home, and big daughter was talking about making some scones so a nice warm scone would go very nicely with it! I’m glad you came with us, I’ve enjoyed your company – let’s do it again some time!